Polybutylene piping was used extensively in home construction during the period between 1975 and 1995, due largely to its low cost and ease of installation. Polybutylene piping can cause several problems, primarily due to the fact that it can react with water and become brittle, flaking off and causing the pipes to fail without warning. Because they can fail, it is important to know if you have this type of piping, and here we’ll go over a few ways to recognize polybutylene piping in your home.
Obviously, the best way to recognize polybutylene is to have a professional plumber or home inspector take a look. You may be able to tell if your home has this type of piping by looking on your own, but it is hard to recognize if it is damaged simply by looking if you are not experienced. There are, however, a few things you can look for in order to tell if you have this type of piping. Once you have confirmed it, you can have a professional check for any potential damage and help you figure out a solution.
Polybutylene underground water main pipes tend to be blue in color, but can also be gray or black. Black poly should not be confused with polybutylene. The pipes tend to be half an inch to an inch in diameter, and can be seen entering the home through the basement floor or wall, through a concrete slab, or even through a crawlspace. Generally, it will come through the home near the water heater, which is a good place to start looking. There are some cases where copper piping is used near the home, and polybutylene piping is used near the water meter, so it is important to check both ends.
Polybutylene piping can also be used inside the home, and is most easily found near the water heater. It can also be found running along the ceiling in uncompleted basements, and coming out of the walls to provide water to sinks and toilets. Some areas use copper stub outs, so if you see copper near the fixture it does not mean that polybutylene piping is not used for the rest of the piping. If you do find this type of piping, it is generally a good idea to replace it, but this must generally be done with the aid of a professional plumber, especially if it is damaged.